Welcome to Part 3 of my series on eating with food allergies in Walt Disney World. Part 1 covered planning ahead for your visit, and Part 2 focused on eating in the Magic Kingdom. Today, I'd like to tell you about our experience in Animal Kingdom.
Just two weeks before our visit, the lovely folks at Disney added a special kiosk devoted solely to food allergies in the Animal Kingdom park. Pictured below, the charming little house features allergy-free snacks for purchase, and a pleasant and knowledgeable staff member to answer all your questions about eating allergy-free in the park.
|Allergy-Free Kiosk in Animal Kingdom|
This is the first kiosk of its kind in Walt Disney World. According to the staff member inside, it is part of a 45-day trial. Based on the feedback received, similar allergy-free kiosks may be added to the rest of the parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios). She laughed when I asked her if the experiment would roll out to the other parks, and replied, "You are about the hundredth person to ask me that today!" Apparently, guest feedback has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, with some guests making a special trip to Guest Services to praise the initiative.
Animal Kingdom is a lovely park, resembling a jungle, and featuring a wide array of wild animal experiences, along with several popular thrill rides. Restaurant dining is limited, and the park is often considered a "half-day" park because it is smaller than the other three parks on the property. As a result, many people do not eat meals in this park, opting for snacks instead. This may have been the driving reason behind the decision to offer allergy-free snacks for purchase.
|Allergy-Free Snack Menu|
The allergy-free snacks available when we arrived comprised an interesting mix of healthy options and special treats. The variety may change as guest feedback is received, but our options included Hummus with Vegetables, Flavored Rice Chips, Caramel Popcorn, GF Vegan Granola Bars, GF Vegan Cookies, GF Vegan Blondies, GF (not vegan) Cookies, GF Cupcakes, and even GF beer (Omission Lager). Fresh fruit was also available.
|Some of the snacks available.|
None of the items were made on Disney property; most were pre-packaged brands we had seen before, including the popular Enjoy Life. We chose to sample the GF Vegan Cookie, the GF Cookie, and the GF Vegan Cupcakes.
|Here's what we tried...|
The non-vegan cookie was from the Enjoy Life company, which does allergy-free food well. We had eaten these before at home, and like the date-sweetened, soft cookies. The vegan items are all made by a bakery called Babycakes, which is based in New York City, but has a small outlet in Orlando. Despite the lack of gluten, dairy or eggs in the cookie and cupcakes we tried, the flavor of our treats was spectacular!
|Babycakes GF Vegan Cookie|
The Babycakes cookie was a large, thin, crunchy chocolate chip cookie, that tasted a bit like a tuile. Because of its size, it was good for sharing (in little bites).
The Babycakes cupcakes were cute, tiny little things -- chocolate-flavored, and each with a different type of frosting (made with agave, so it's refined-sugar free as well). As you might expect, these were delicious, and their tiny size made them perfect for a guilt-free tangent from our strict diet. All Babycakes items are gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free and refined sugar free. (Note: We visited the Babycakes bakery in Downtown Disney later in the trip, and I'll report on that in a later post.)
The most interesting part about this special kiosk, however, is the allergy-free information available there. I expected I would walk up to the window and ask a battery of questions about where we could eat and what we could find there, but this was not the case. Instead, the very friendly lady handed me a brochure that listed the three major restaurants in the park, and every allergy-free item on the menus, complete with tags for each allergen. How convenient! I always have trouble remembering exactly what I've been told about the complicated dishes and substitutions that might work for us, especially because we all avoid different items.
Options included gluten-free breads and pizza crusts, salads with chicken, ribs and burgers. There was enough variety to satisfy both the Paleo and simply gluten-free members of our party, and it was wonderful to see all the allergens listed for each item. While every ingredient was not included, this was certainly a step in the right direction.
A note on the back of the brochure told us that gluten-free brownies and chocolate chip cookies are available at all the restaurants, and items marked with an asterisk can be made gluten-free on request. Animal Kingdom does not have separate kitchens for allergy-free food preparation.
|Exotic birds in Animal Kingdom|
We did spend just a half-day at Animal Kingdom, and did not eat a meal in the park. On previous trips, we have enjoyed three of the park restaurants: Pizzafari and Restaurantasaurus (listed on the allergy-free brochure) and Yak and Yeti (not listed on the brochure). I'm not sure why the Yak and Yeti restaurant was not included in the allergy-free listing. We ate some delicious bowls of soup that featured rice noodles, so it seems that there should be allergy-free items available, but I don't have any official insight into why there aren't.
|Expedition Everest roller coaster|
The new kiosk is charming and very user-friendly. The range of snacks was small, but it did include fruit and vegetables (very rare!) as well as chips and dessert. Paleo options were very limited (there were no nuts obviously), but the veggies would work without the hummus. Having an allergy-free support system is a huge plus as well, and can go a long way toward morphing a stressful situation into a relaxing vacation. I look forward to seeing similar kiosks in each of the other parks!
Other posts in this series:
Part 1: Planning for your allergy-free Disney vacation
Part 2: Eating in the Magic Kingdom
Part 3: The new food allergy kiosk in Animal Kingdom
Part 4: Eating allergy-free in Hollywood Studios
Part 5: Eating allergy-free in Epcot
Part 6: Eating allergy-free at Disney hotel restaurants
Part 7: The rest of the parks (Downtown Disney, Typhoon Lagoon, room service and more)
Shared with Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Gluten Free Tuesday, Waste Not Want Not Wednesday, Allergy Free Wednesday, Gluten Free Wednesday, Gluten Free Friday, Whole Food Friday, Weekend Bloggy Reading, Pennywise Platter, Anything Goes, Healing Food Friday, Link Party Palooza, and Fat Tuesday.